811.114 Belgium/140

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Belgium ( Sussdorff )

No. 230

Sir: A telegram has just been addressed to you45 referring to your despatch No. 462 of May 16, 1935,46 in which you reported that there is no law in Belgium prohibiting the transfer of cargoes on the high seas which have been loaded in a Belgian port, and stating, in effect, that those engaged in the illicit liquor traffic are taking advantage of this situation for the purpose of obtaining cargoes of alcohol to be smuggled into the United States.

The Norwegian steamship Anders cleared from Antwerp on May 11, 1935, with 5,085 cases of alcohol consigned to St. Pierre-Miquelon. [Page 420] This alcohol was discharged on the high seas, twenty-four miles from St. Pierre-Miquelon, on May 30, 1935, into a smuggling vessel which is now hovering off the coast of the United States.

The Danish steamship Jan sailed from Antwerp on June 12, 1935, with 4,000 cases of alcohol, ostensibly destined for St. John’s, Newfoundland. However, there is no market in Newfoundland for alcohol and the regulations at present in effect make smuggling from there practically impossible, hence the alleged destination of this cargo is undoubtedly false and it is also destined for the smuggling trade.

You are requested to take this matter up with the Belgian Government, pointing out that the officers of the American Government charged with the prevention of smuggling into the United States had hoped that, with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, problems in connection with the smuggling of liquor into the United States would disappear. Partial cessation of shipments of illicit liquor into this country during the first three months following repeal seemed to indicate that these hopes would be realized, but it soon became evident that alcohol was taking the place of the assorted liquors formerly carried and the traffic again reached serious proportions.

Within the past six months, the bases of operations from which the greater part of the smuggling of alcohol and liquors into the United States has been carried on have gradually been closed. The Cuban Government, by a decree dated November 30, 1934, prohibited the exportation of alcohol and alcoholic beverages to any territory which is believed to be used as a smuggling base. This action was in addition to the requirement already in force, providing for the giving of a bond conditioned on the presentation of a landing certificate showing the arrival of the cargo at its declared destination. This has effectively prevented the shipment of alcohol and alcoholic products from Cuba intended for smuggling into the United States, both directly as well as by means of transshipment in a port of another country.

On February 16, 1935, the British Government instituted in Newfoundland the following regulations which have prevented the further use of the port of St. John’s as a smuggling base:

Clearance of vessels for “the high seas” with cargoes of spirits is prohibited.
No liquor may be exported from any port of Newfoundland in a vessel of less than two hundred tons.
A bond in double the amount of the import duty must be given for the production of a landing certificate covering any liquor exported from or transshipped in any port of Newfoundland.

Bermuda has a law requiring the giving of a bond in an amount triple the import duty, conditioned upon the presentation of a landing certificate showing the arrival of the spirits at their declared destination. The Government of Bermuda, furthermore, has expressed its [Page 421] determination that the Island shall not become a base for the operation of smugglers. In addition, we have been informally assured by the British Government that, should smuggling develop in any of the other British West Indies, similar regulations to those instituted in Newfoundland will be placed in effect wherever necessary.

The French Government has issued a decree adopting regulations similar to those in effect in Newfoundland to prevent the use of St. Pierre-Miquelon as a base of operations for smugglers. This decree became effective May 15, 1935. The new regulations have prevented the clearance of vessels with cargoes of alcohol or alcoholic beverages destined for smuggling into the United States.

The Government of Guatemala has issued instructions to customs officers at Puerto Barrios that, after June 11, 1935, they may neither receive nor clear alcohol or alcoholic beverages in international transit pending a study of a method definitely to counteract the activities which have been taking place from that port as a base of operations for the smuggling of alcohol and alcoholic beverages into the United States.

The Canadian Government had previously taken effective measures (1) by requiring bonds for the production of landing certificates, and (2) by requiring the presentation of a consular invoice before allowing spirits consigned to persons in the United States to be released from a bonded warehouse for shipment to this country, in order to prevent the use of its territory as a smuggling base.

This Government has, therefore, succeeded, with the cooperation of foreign governments, in eliminating practically all of the chief bases from which alcohol and alcoholic beverages have been smuggled into the United States for several years. Those engaged in this illicit traffic will therefore be compelled to seek other means of accomplishing their illegal ends. The recent activities of the vessels Anders and Jan indicate that the smugglers are now arranging to receive their cargoes directly from steamers on the high seas. This confirms a report received by the Intelligence Officers of this Government shortly after the closing of St. Pierre-Miquelon to the illicit liquor traffic.

You are therefore requested to point out to the Belgian Government that, by permitting clearances such as those of the vessels Anders and Jan, Belgium is lending aid and assistance to persons engaged in violating the laws of the United States. Furthermore, the alcohol thus smuggled is made up into cheap liquors and forms an important factor in competing with legal liquors of both domestic and foreign origin. It is believed that the benefits derived by the people and Government of Belgium from this illicit trade are negligible and would not, in any event, compensate for the injury inflicted upon a friendly country.

[Page 422]

You should express the hope that a system may be adopted requiring bonds in sufficient amount for the production of landing certificates to insure the arrival at their declared destinations of the cargoes of alcohol or alcoholic beverages shipped from Belgium ports. You may add that such action, or some other effective means of control, would be greatly appreciated by the Government of the United States.

The result of your representations will be awaited with interest.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Wilbur J. Carr
  1. Presumably refers to telegram No. 39, June 20, 7 p.m., not printed.
  2. See footnote 41, p. 415.